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Knowledge and Destiny

By: Dara Unterberg

Hashem makes it very clear throughout the Yetziat Mizrayim narrative that He wants both Bnei Yisrael and the Egyptians to know Him. Variations on the phrase “ ’” – ‘and you will know that I am Hashem’ - appear multiple times in this week’s parsha alone.

- Parshat Vaera opens during a critical moment for Moshe and his mission. Things have gone poorly thus far, and Moshe asks G-d why He has made things worse for Bnei Yisrael. G-d responds with reassurances that He intends to fulfill His covenant with the Avot. At this time G-d spells out the five statements of redemption that are recited every year at the Pesach Seder:

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Upon closer examination, after the first four statements describing what G-d is committing to do for Bnei Yisrael, G-d articulates a requirement that Bnei Yisrael must fulfill before He will bring the Jews to Israel, which is the final stage in this redemptive process: to know that G-d is their G-d.

The – Or HaChaim - says the following:

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The promise to bring the Jews to Israel was conditional, and if Bnei Yisrael failed to know G-d, He would not bring them to the Promised Land.

According to the Or HaChaim, the active acknowledgment of G-d as the G-d of the Jewish people is what gives Bnei Yisrael the right to acquire their homeland. Without knowing Him, they would not deserve it.

As the parsha continues and the makkot begin, G-d says over and over again that the Egyptians must know that he is G-d. In fact, Hashem has two overt objectives at this juncture; one, the release of the Jewish people from enslavement in Egypt, and the other, that the Egyptians know that He is G-d. It makes sense that G-d wants His chosen nation to know Him, but why is it important at this juncture that the Egyptians do as well?

This theme reappears in this week’s Haftorah. It begins with a prophecy of kibbutz galyuot. Bnei Yisrael will be returned to their land, live securely, and they will know that G-d is their G-d. Yechezkel continues to prophesy and describes the fall of Egypt from the ranks of great empires. After they have been humbled and see themselves as one of the lowliest of nations, they will recognize Hashem and know Him:

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Ultimately, both Bnei Yisrael AND the Egyptians will know G-d. The intertwined manner in which their respective paths to knowledge of G-d is presented teaches an essential lesson.

The answer revolves around the choice to actively partner with G-d to fulfill His will. When the Jews witness the events around them, and see the Hand of Hashem in sefer Shmot, they chose to seize the moment and fulfill their destiny. Their active choice to know Hashem moved their path to success forward. The Egyptians, on the other hand, refused to recognize Hashem. They reject G-d’s will and deny His authority. Only after their destiny reached its low point, and the truth was forced upon them, would they acknowledge that Hashem runs the world and know Him.

Let’s use our forefather’s model and achieve our destiny by actively recognizing and knowing Hashem. When we do, Yechezkel’s prophecy will come to fruition:

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‘And they lived upon the land securely and build homes and planted vineyards and settled in security … and they knew that I am Hashem E-lokim”

 

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